In Memoriam: James D. Finkelstein, M.D., Professor Emeritus

James Finkelstein in graduation regalia shaking hands with a SMHS faculty member

It’s with great sorrow that the George Washington University (GW) School of Medicine and Health Sciences (SMHS) announces the passing of James D. Finkelstein, M.D., Professor Emeritus in the Department of Medicine. Finkelstein’s contributions to medicine, inside and outside of SMHS, will be remembered for many years to come.

Finkelstein dedicated decades of his life to studying the metabolism of methionine in mammalian tissue. His work has been critical in elucidating the regulatory mechanisms of methionine and its conversion to homocysteine. He developed nearly a dozen specific enzyme assays for the measurement of methionine metabolism. His studies have had a major impact on clinical medicine. Abnormalities of homocysteine metabolism have been implicated in a variety of disease states including arteriosclerosis, neoplasia, neuropsychiatric disorders and alcoholic liver disease. The recent explosion in activity in this field can be directly attributed to his contributions. He amassed a record 27 years of continuous NIH funding and more than 80 scientific contributions to the medical literature.

Finkelstein first joined SMHS as an assistant research professor of medicine and chief of the Hepatology Section at the Washington D.C. VA Medical Center (VA) in 1967. Due to his academic achievements and productivity, he was soon appointed a professor of medicine at SMHS and chief of the medical service at the VA. He served as chair of the Department of Medicine at the VA for over 20 years, where he was a leading advocate for both academic medicine and biomedical research. During his tenure at GW, Finkelstein was also consultant in gastroenterology at Children’s National Health System and consultant in liver diseases at the National Institute of Arthritis, Metabolism and Digestive Diseases.

“He was one of the great physicians in the history of D.C. and U.S. medicine,” said Alan Wasserman, M.D., Eugene Meyer Professor of Medicine and chair of the Department of Medicine at SMHS. “He was a researcher, a clinician, an educator, and a great mentor to me and many others.”

He was a member of numerous prestigious scientific societies, including the American Society for Clinical Investigations, the American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases, and the American Gastroenterologic Association. He was the recipient of many awards, including membership in the honor societies of Phi Beta Kappa and Alpha Omega Alpha, the Lifetime Achievement Award of the Association of VA Chiefs of Medicine, the Robert Herman Award from the American Society for Clinical Nutrition and the Distinguished Researcher Medal from GW. He was recently awarded the Walter Lester Henry, Jr., Award for Lifetime Teaching Excellence from the American College of Physicians.

Finkelstein is survived by his wife of 54 years, Barbara Finkelstein; his daughters Donna Finkelstein and Ed Magarian; and Laura Helene Finkelstein; his grandchildren Brian and Hannah Magarian and Matthew, Talia and Courtney Loeb; and his sister Miriam (Melvyn) Davis.

The funeral will take place on Wed., Aug. 6 at 11 a.m. at Judean Memorial Gardens in Olney, M.D. His family will be at home for friends and family to visit Mon. and Tues. from 7 – 9 p.m., Wed. after the service, and Thurs. and Fri. from 7 – 9 p.m. at 3916 Garrison Street NW, Washington, D.C., 20016.

Latest News

The George Washington University (GW) School of Medicine and Health Sciences (SMHS) is pleased to announce that Alison Hall, PhD, has been appointed to serve as the Senior Associate Dean for Research.
Researchers at the George Washington University (GW) School of Medicine and Health Sciences (SMHS), recently published an article shedding light on the educational exposure and perspectives of dermatology resident physicians regarding sensitive skin, a common yet complex condition encountered in…
U.S. News & World Report gives high marks for GW SMGS online bachelor’s programs and online bachelor’s programs for veterans in recent rankings.